Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mekong Delta: down the river without a paddle...

Business as usual on the Mekong

The Mekong Delta is the second great rice bowl of Vietnam, the first is in the north in the wake of the red river. Although the day we went was overcast, the light was fantastic, and the great bowl of river reflected the heavens and made the colours pulse like ancient marine paintings. It was fantastic to get away from the cluttered, polluted, noisy streets of Saigon, out to where it seemed the sky went on forever (which it does!) and the river had the breath and feel of the ocean. I could finally breathe again. The floating market was just ending, a few bedraggled barges laden with their cargoes of watermellon or mango were scattering over the expanse of muddy brown water, their owners kicking back with their feet over the stern rails, closing their eyes under the colourful umbrella of their drying clothing hanging above them. We circled around a huge expanse of delta, at one edge the ragamuffin stilt housing of the delta traders huddled together as if holding each other up on their decaying stumps. Out on the water huge islands of floating greenery passed by, as if they were islands out in search of a new location on the globe, the air was fresh and reviving.

After the obligatory visits to the local traders work and showrooms (rice cakes, rice confectionery, generally a lot of rice) and the token reptile handling session, we were taken to lunch where whole fish, skewered to huge spikes, were served accompanied by a number of other fairly bland Vietnamese dishes. It was a long way to come to buy Chinese stuff in the market, a New York woman complained (sure enough, a lot of the merchandise was from China!) It was a long way to come, but I was in my element with my camera under the big sky, over the muddy Mekong water...

Row of colourful barges on the Mekong

A profusion of water lilies near the restaurant in which we ate lunch

The skies and the light and colours made me think of Breugel and some of the Flemish painters
Motorboat down the Mekong

The Big Skies of the Mekong more visible in infrared
Mekong Big Skies

The stilted houses in which the people live are painted very colourfully
The barges are like great hulking rotting boxes that are at this stage showing their age
Old barge and stilt houses
The diffuse light brought out all the colours
Christianity, as in many impoverished areas, is dominant
Tourists chug along the muddy river 
Another tourist boat heads in to shore
House on the Mekong
Laundry on display on one of the barges
Detail of barge
It's so wide, the Mekong feels like the ocean
Trader on the Mekong wearing the ubiquitous face covering: the pollution is even here...

Stilted houses with tv arials on the Mekong

Medieval scene of woman making rice wrappers

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